# Should gibberish posts be flagged as abusive or just downvoted and deleted?

Note: This is quite a long post. Feel free to scroll down to the highlighted part where my actual question is. If you find out that you want more information on these types of flags, you can read the first part where I did my best to collect the relevant information.

Occasionally it happens that I stumble upon posts where the contents is something like "asdfj ewerepqjf sl qwerqwerqwef 14jljk". They might be caused by cat on a keyboard or somebody might post them by mistake, not even realizing that they inadvertently made a post. Or the reasons might be less innocuous. For example, somebody might bump their post using another account created just for this purpose. Or this might be expression of a frustrated user reacting in somewhat disruptive manner.

When seeing such posts, so far I followed the FAQ from the main meta saying that such posts should be flagged as rude or abusive. Here is the quote of relevant paragraph: "It contains only gibberish, such as “fsdguejgkfdlk”. Use the rude or abusive flag for these cases, or flag for moderator attention with a custom explanation if it requires more detail."1

If enough people flag the post as rude/abusive, the post is deleted and the content is hidden. (It is only visible after you click on revisions.) I have noticed, that often gibberish post on this site are deleted, but the content not hidden. As far as I know, this means that they did not get enough rude/abusive flags. A few examples are posted below.2 (I have posted them just to show that this really sometimes happens. You can ignore them and take my word for it. I do not know about any efficient way how to find such cases, but I do not think that providing more examples is needed here.)

I am aware that if a post gets enough spam or offensive flags, that has some repercussions for the poster. Again from FAQ: "6 flags (spam or rude or abusive): post is locked, deleted, and the author loses 100 reputation." And there might be some other penalization which I am unaware of. I guess enough of them might lead to notifying moderators who might decide to suspend or delete account.3

So I can kind of understand the sentiment who could say: "Perhaps it is better to do something which do not influence the user so much for some minor offence. I'll just use NAA flag, or downvote, or vote to delete the post." I often have doubts about this as well, but since this seems to be the official policy of SE network, I have used rude/abusive flags in such situations.

After this long introduction, I can finally say what my questions are:

• Did I understand correctly that if I see a deleted post where contents is not hidden, it was not deleted based on offensive flags? (I.e., did I correctly interpret the examples I posted below?)
• What is your opinion on this issue. Should gibberish posts be flagged as rude/abusive or should they just be deleted? (I know what the official SE policy is. But people using this site might have opinion differing from official policy. If there are some reasonable arguments against flagging these post in this way, I will be glad to hear them.)

1 The reasoning why such posts are considered abusive is given in the same FAQ entry as follows: "Abuse of the system or community is everything that is created with the intention to harm them. This includes posts that contain no useful content at all – i.e. gibberish posts along the lines of: asyuv;laergap897wertp[98 gb;vp98a34. Cats are not allowed to walk across keyboards as part of Stack Exchange posts; this is abuse and should be flagged as such. (Source)"

2 For users with privilege to see deleted questions:

• Examples of gibberish posts which where not hidden: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

• These gibberish posts are also not hidden, but they come from orignally sensible post, which was later edited - so they are somewhat different 1, 2

• Examples of gibberish posts which where hidden: 1, 2, 3. 4. 5

3If somebody can confirm with some official source whether enough offensive flags can lead to account suspension or deletion, let me know in the comments and I will add the information into the post.

• Gibberish posts aren't rude, and they aren't offensive, so they shouldn't be tagged that way. – Gerry Myerson Dec 4 '16 at 12:05
• I have copied from the FAQ the reasoning why they are considered abusive (rather than offensive) and added it to my question. Perhaps it might help make thinks clearer. But still thanks of the reply - this is exactly what I am asking about; I want to see whether the opinions of local math.SE community differ from network-wide guidelines. – Martin Sleziak Dec 4 '16 at 12:14
• I can see their point. I think it's a legalistic use of the word "abuse", which doesn't agree with the day-to-day meaning of the word. Maybe instead of "abusive" they should say "gibberish" or something like that. – Gerry Myerson Dec 4 '16 at 12:18
• @GerryMyerson fskjkfhsjqhdfjskhdfjshdfjshldgjklshgdjkl – quid Dec 4 '16 at 12:57
• @GerryMyerson jfjsdjkfjskfsjklhfsjhfnwxccsjkd – quid Dec 4 '16 at 12:57
• ^^^^ don't you agree it would be rude or abusive if I did that ten more times on various of your posts. @GerryMyerson day in day out? – quid Dec 4 '16 at 12:58
• @quid There is a vast difference \\ between what you illustrated, \\ which can be interpreted as \\ targeted harassment of \\ a specific user, \\ and a user posting \\ gjnf oevyyvt naq gur fyvgul gbirf qvq tler naq tvzoyr va gur jnor nyy zvzfl jrer gur obebtbirf naq gur zbzr enguf bhgtenor \\ a single time. \\ Heck, you might even \\ consider this string \\ of pings as somewhat \\ abusive, even though \\ they carry meaning. (Comment used to be split up into several comments as illustrated.) – user642796 Dec 4 '16 at 13:16
• @arjafi yes, obviously. Incidentally I am in the process of explaining this in an answer. Yet Gerry dismissed the idea it could be rude/abusive completely. While there are cases where it is. – quid Dec 4 '16 at 13:18
• @quid, I responded to the question Martin asked. There was nothing in that question about anyone posting gibberish ten or more times on one individual's posts, so I didn't feel a need to respond to that hypothetical. I still don't. – Gerry Myerson Dec 4 '16 at 22:31
• @GerryMyerson actually the act of posting a (single) post of gibberish in my opinion is more often that not at least somewhat rude as it is a disruptive action (carried out intentionally as such or by lack of consideration or carelessness). To say the content of the post is not rude and therefore it should not be flagged as rude is overly reductive. – quid Dec 4 '16 at 22:49
• To reply to 3: I have no official source (hence a comment instead of an answer), but I am quite certain that suspensions are never automatic. Futher, I am quite certain that posts that were deleted by spam and offensive flags count harder towards an answer ban than posts that were deleted otherwise (but the formula is classified information, so again, I have no official source). – wythagoras Dec 6 '16 at 19:54

Regardless of any "official stance", I feel that the most important point to keep in mind when faced with these posts is given in Shog9's linked answer

The important thing to remember here is that when the post clearly means nothing, you shouldn't be wasting too much thought trying to decipher it; flag it and move on with your life.

That is, don't overthink it. In the same answer Shog9 states

So pick the flag that speaks to you. I'm partial to "rude or abusive", because enough of them immediately delete and lock the post, which is handy in those rare scenarios where someone's flooding the site with a lot of these... But VLQ or NAA work just as well in the vast majority of cases.

That is, flagging as "rude or abusive" is a valid repsonse — but not the only valid response — to these posts. (I'll note that this answer by Shog9 is the "Source" for the "[gibberish] is abuse and should be flagged as such" idea of the FAQ, even though Shog9 doesn't express this nearly so absolutely.)

I am personally of the opinion that gibberish posts fall squarely under the "very low quality" definition:

This [post] has severe formatting or content problems. This [post] is unlikely to be salvageable through editing, and might need to be removed.

Flagging as such will put the post in the Low Quality Posts review queue, meaning that it will be seen by users with the ability to get rid of it. As far as I can tell flagging as "rude or abusive" does not place posts in the review queues, and so this method relies on enough users coming by and flagging the post independently. (Sure "rude or abusive" flags immediately show up in the moderator flag queue, but we're not always around. And Smoke Detector often catches them and posts to the C.R.U.D.E. chat room.)

When you can, slapping a downvote and delete vote on these posts is also a good move.

As far as these "automunged" posts are concerned, your interpretation is basically correct. If the contents of a deleted post have been hidden, then it has accumulated enough spam or "rude or abusive" flags to be deleted that way. Otherwise a deleted post have been deleted by normal means: enough delete votes, or enough "recommend deletion" votes in the review queue. See the "Spam and Offensive Automunging" section of the December 2013 Moderator Newsletter.

• The problem is that there are many situations in which gibberish is posted deliberately, to replace the text of a post that cannot be deleted, to annoy, to prank, whatever. I've seen very little "accidental" gibberish. I for one get sick and tired of wasting my time reviewing such posts deemed "very low quality", which are nothing but gibberish, and "scream" "delete me!" Is it rude? Yes, it forces users to have to go through the motions of flagging as VLQ in order to go $\to$ low-quality queue (Review $\to$ (hopefully) ultimate deletion. – Namaste Dec 9 '16 at 23:20
• Call it inconvenient, call it an intentional prank or retaliation, call it an attempt to erase poor-quality, call it a "pain-in-the-ass",... most such posts, in one way or another, fall into the realm of "rude". Like @quid, I agree that these cases (whether to flag as rude, or as VLQ) depend on the context of the post at hand. So I'm just uncomfortable at any suggestion of a "policy" of treating as VLQ. – Namaste Dec 9 '16 at 23:23

Before I actually answer I will confer an observation from earlier discussions, actions, etc.

Many a user are eager to flag such posts (and even lesser evils). Yet if not instructed otherwise, and some even then, they'll flag it as spam. Like, that's a non-sense/worthless post, spam-flagged.

This should not be done as spam-flags should only be use for spam in the narrow sense of advertising a product or service. Being consistent there has some relevance as data gathered from these flags can be used to auto-prevent future spam. Otherwise the mechanics of the flags "spam" and "rude or abusive" are the same, also regarding the penalty on the user.

I feel the recommendation to flag as "rude or abusive" can also be seen in part as a stop-gap against this. 'If you need to flag, you can do so, but please, use this flag and not spam.'

In my opinion there is a scale, as discussed in the question. Posting gibberish can and often is an innocent mistake or likely even more often minor carelessness or lack of consideration. (Like: Okay, so how does this site work. I type my text here:'sjfkfjdfjld qkdjqkljfkljfkdl' and then, right I need to press that button. {Click}. Oops. How, can I delete this? I can't?! Oh well...)

It can be an outburst of frustration. It can be gaming the system (to bump the post). It also can be part of a pattern behavior to disrupt the workings of the site or to harass a (group of) user(s).

What it is can not be decided based on the post alone, but only given the context. Use your best judgment, and even then there is a decision to be made. I proceed like this:

• The post is gibberish and I believe the context is harmless: NAA/LQ flag, vote to close/delete.

• The post is gibberish and I believe the user is willfully disruptive: rude or abusive flag.

Put differently, decide what you do based on whether you believe it is justified a point-penalty is inflicted on the user for having posted the post.

It may also worth noting that moderators can undo the point-penalty, thus also opening a way to appeal.

Finally, many a gibberish post comes from throw-away 1-point accounts, where the penalty is somewhat moot anyway.

• +1 for pointing out the statistics. However, I feel I should point out that a lot of bots I've seen on the web lately post either gibberish or foreign languages, so technically some gibberish might be purposefully destructive spam/bots. It's a good thing to keep in mind. I've seen entire 10000+ user forums collapse because bots like these sprung out of control because people didn't notice they were all from the same person experimenting on ways to make them more efficient. And then one day... the forum was overran to the point that it was completely useless to post anything. – The Great Duck Dec 10 '16 at 8:31
• As shog9 says in the linked answer "heck it might even be a spammer, testing the waters". That is, some spammers will post something off-topic, even gibberish, that doesn't contain any spam promotion or links. And if the post manages to survive they update it with the actual spam payload. That doesn't mean that we should flag such "pre-spam" posts with the spam flag because that's a rather severe allegation, and should only be used for actual spam that fits the definition of spam used on Stack Exchange sites. But they should still be flagged. – PM 2Ring Dec 10 '16 at 11:34